It’s time to move on

This past week I’ve had time to get back into reading some and commenting some. I really wish I could do more but I have decided that being connected in a variety of ways in my f2f world is more important that my being connected on the web. I had always imagined that, as I learned more about the tools and became better at discussing the implementation of the tools, my readership would grow and, eventually, I’d get to do some presenting on the topics, at least in my home division and maybe even get some time to develop workshops for within the division. Well, that hasn’t happened. As summer began, I wanted to was hoping to do some reading and write more. That didn’t happen either. In fact, as summer moved along, I read very little and blogged even less. Was I losing the desire after only 6 months? What was going wrong?

I found out that nothing was going wrong and I hadn’t lost my enthusiasm for using technology but I was, in fact, needing to move past the hype discussions to really begin to examine and explore how the tools could improve education for the students. To continue discussing how great things were and how it might be if more teachers used the tools and how other teachers needed to get online was, well, becoming boring as was the discussion of the latest and greatest new tool. Some I’d check out but, for the most part, I’m still working on getting my teaching centered around those that I am getting comfortable with and unless something outstanding comes along, I’ll stick with what I have for now. So, I would scan my RSS and read the occasional post. I quit the whole SL adventure because, well, it is a nice place to visit but, if I have that time, I’d rather play games than be in SL. I spent the summer following this pattern, school started and there wasn’t much time for anything except getting things in order at school.

This week has seen a slight shift in the work in school, I’ve a bit more time to read and write. More importantly, I happened on a few discussions forums that really sparked me. The first was a discussion about digital natives/immigrants. I’ve discussed this before (so far back I can’t find the thread) and to see it crop up again was rather interesting. Most of the people in the discussion were new to me. However, Sylvia Martin, someone who has been doing a lot of work on web2.0 tools, commented that:

All this brings up important questions – Does labeling teachers as digital immigrants give them an excuse not to participate? Does labeling kids as digital natives give us an excuse not to teach them? If the label is used as an excuse, maybe it’s not so handy.

I think a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that although DN/DI is a convenient slogan, it falls apart as part of a deeper analysis. And worse, it may actually be a roadblock to solutions.

I agree completely with this. I know that it will continue to crop up as people enter the blogosphere but for those who have been working within the domain for a bit, it appears to have entered a new stage.

Barbara Barreda, one of my fellow writers over at Leadertalk, posted an interesting topic just the other day. What tool? What learning? What objectives? is a piece that looks at going past the native/immigrant discussion to look more deeply at the philosophical aspect of changes that these new tools might bring.

What is it we really want the students to learn and be able to do at the end of the month, the quarter, the semester, the year? I am discovering that the school year, for the teachers and myself, is a living breathing example of Newton’s law of motion. “A body in motion stays in motion unless it is acted upon.” So it is time to not only shake up our general concept of what learning is important but to shake up the concrete objectives and goals we set for our lessons. When those objectives change then we will be well on the way to transforming the educational process.

This last statement is getting to the essence of what I see as being the next step in bringing around reform in the educational systems we work in. Until we can reflect on what we are doing and question what it is that is being taught, we will continue to do what we have been doing, maybe with some new tools, and the results won’t be that much different.

Teachers like mscofino, Dan MyersClarence Fisher and Coolcatteacher who are demonstrating that there is a way to examine the objectives that will allow us to manage what we are doing in a much better fashion. Now, these teachers are examples of people who are evaluating what is happening in their classrooms and doing things a bit different. Not all of them are using new web tools to achieve their goals but they are using these tools to share with others their successes and to ask probing questions of the rest of us.

It is no longer good enough to continue the discussions about native/immigrant status. Things have kept moving since these terms surfaced a while back. As Sylvia Martinez says

I think a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that although DN/DI is a convenient slogan, it falls apart as part of a deeper analysis. And worse, it may actually be a roadblock to solutions.

I know that people that just learning with the new tools will continue to have this discussion but it is maybe time for others to push the envelope forward and ask about objectives with a new set of lenses. Dean Shareski, one of my more favourite Saskatchewan educational bloggers, continues to do this on his site. I appreciate Dean’s insights and analysis and his persistence to demonstrate to teachers that the change isn’t that overwhelming, objectives can be met and, whether we like or not, society is changing.

We have the ability, the knowledge and the tools but we are frozen by our indecision, continue to follow what has gone before us. Until we shake off these bonds, schools will continue to be places where students come to power down.

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2 responses

  1. Kelly,

    Once again you have inspired me to write. I read your post until the link to the ‘digital natives/immigrants’ post and then ventured there. After reading the comments, I spent the next 2 hours writing a response/comment (that I also posted in my own blog – linked to my name).

    After getting back to your post, I realized that we are coming to some of the same conclusions from different perspectives.

    I think that there are some structural limitations to ‘shaking off the bonds’ – lack of technology in our classrooms, lack of meaningful collaboration time to engage other colleagues in the building, lack of freedom to veer away from the curriculum (especially in classes with Provincial Exams), The ‘excuses’ can go on and on. We have both expressed how things just aren’t moving fast enough! Any time that happens we are bound to get disenchanted.

    Your blog inspires because you ask your self thoughtful questions and you dig deep to answer them. You said,
    “To continue discussing how great things were and how it might be if more teachers used the tools and how other teachers needed to get online was, well, becoming boring as was the discussion of the latest and greatest new tool.”
    Well Kelly, there is so much more to blog about. For example, I think there is a lot to be explored in relation to combining good pedagogy while using technology. Why didn’t our Book Club take off? hmmmm. No agreed upon structure, No defined expectations, No time line to finish reading the book, No format decided upon to ‘meet and discuss’ the book. It failed just as it would have failed in a classroom with the same lack of parameters… That’s just one example.
    Teach, Lead, Inspire, Question… and as a favour to us… blog.

  2. I have decided to dip my big toe into the emerging technologies pool: I will be experimenting with using an iPod in my Spanish classes. It’s a sharp learning curve for this tech-novice, but I am excited and grateful for having been given the opportunity.

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